The Utah State Board of Education announced Thursday that it will enforce a new law banning sensitive educational materials in schools.
The announcement follows the recently passed House Bill 374, sponsored by Representative Ken Ivory, which bans certain sensitive educational materials from schools, including those that could be considered pornographic or indecent.
In a letter from President Brad Wilson to the USBE dated Wednesday, Wilson asked the board to enforce HB 374, which he says has been misinterpreted.
“There have been attempts to misrepresent the intent of HB 374 and prevent its full implementation,” Wilson wrote in the letter. “It is our responsibility to ensure the success and well-being of Utah students, even if it requires tough decisions and conversations.”
In a response to Wilson and signed by USBE Board Chair Mark Huntsman and Vice Chairs Laura Belnap and Cindy Davis, USBE said it was working to establish the new law in schools.
“Members and staff of the Utah State Board of Education share your concern about the potential appearance of pornographic or indecent educational materials in public schools,” the USBE letter reads. “We want to assure you that we have worked quickly and safely to implement HB 374, Sensitive Materials in Schools.”
USBE said in its letter that it is also working to enforce R277-628, a new administrative rule passed in February requiring local educational agencies to establish protocols to ensure that all library materials comply with state and federal laws, including HB. 374.
This rule also creates a reporting mechanism and requires all school districts and charter schools in the state to begin documenting parental challenges to materials used in schools. Due to R277-628, USBE does not plan to issue another rule to comply with HB 374 at this time.
USBE received funding from the Legislature to hire a state-level library specialist who will monitor and provide support to local educational agencies when Rule R277-628 and Section 53G-10-103 are implemented in schools.
“(We) thank the Legislature for the funding you provided to the council to hire a state-level library specialist to continue the work with Local Education Agencies (LEAs) that we both want to see done. “, says the letter. “We will soon have a new library specialist joining our staff.”
According to the letter from USBE, the board believes the Attorney General will provide further direction on the laws surrounding school libraries with which it intends to comply.
“The Council continues to work with the Attorney General’s Office to provide the best legal advice to districts and (charter schools) on the management of sensitive materials in schools,” Huntsman said in a news release. “We are also moving quickly and sensibly to comply with all aspects of HB 374.”